Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Democrat Congressman Says Republicans Want Sick Americans To Die; Sensible Reform Ideas

As support for the Democrats’ version of health care reform continues to decline (now way below 50% of Americans), conservatives and Republicans have been experiencing increasingly reckless and disgraceful charges from Democrats. The worst, the most toxic and tragic of all, of course, is the Democrat charge that opposition to their health care plans is racist. Now comes a charge that is not so toxic as it is bizarre.

Florida Democrat Representative Alan Grayson charged yesterday on the floor the United States House of Representatives that the Republican health care plan is for Americans to die quickly (link): "If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly," he said. He characterized America’s current health care system as “a holocaust in America.” Evidence? -- I suspect in his mind nothing more than the failure to see things the Democrat party way.

This from a Democrat whose party currently wants to cut Medicare spending by half a trillion dollars. This from a Democrat whose party, in the Senate Finance Committee bill, among other things, wants to turn Medicare patients’ doctors into personal death panels by incentivizing physicians to reduce spending on medical care, a subject of my last post (link).

Most Americans are smart enough to know that we have the best medical care system in the world (link), despite what detractors try to prove with dishonest statistics. We need to improve our system, yes, but most Americans now recognize that the Democrats are trying to throw the baby out with the bath water on their quest for socialized government run heath care.

Once again, I quote Peter Wehner, who recently wrote (link) that “Obama’s critics are now routinely labeled as unpatriotic, racists, liars, mobsters, evil mongers, practitioners of un-American tactics, and more. As Obama’s failures mount up, it will only get worse. The volume will only get louder. And the charges will only get more desperate and incendiary.”

Republicans and conservatives have lots of ideas and plans for responsible heath care reforms (link; link). For some sensible proposals, see these from the Competitive Enterprise Institute (link), summarized here (link):
  • Modify tax policy to eliminate the disincentives for individual purchase of health insurance and health care.
  • Eliminate regulatory barriers that prevent small businesses from cooperatively pooling and self-insuring their health risks by liberalizing the rules that govern voluntary health-care purchasing cooperatives.
  • Eliminate laws that prevent interstate purchase of health insurance by individuals and businesses.
  • Eliminate rules that prevent individuals and group purchasers from tailoring health insurance plans to their needs, including federal and state benefit mandates and community rating requirements.
  • Eliminate artificial restrictions on the supply of health-care services and products, such as the overregulation of drugs and medical devices, as well as state and federal restrictions on who may provide medical services and how they must be delivered.
  • Improve the availability of provider and procedure-specific cost and quality data for use by individual health consumers.
  • Reform the jackpot malpractice liability system that delivers windfall punitive damage awards to small numbers of injured patients while it raises malpractice insurance costs for doctors and incentivizes the practice of defensive medicine.
John M Greco

Monday, September 28, 2009

Senate Democrat Health Care “Reform” Bill Seeks To Turn Medicare Physicians Into Personal Death Panels

Senate Democrats do NOT want anyone to see the actual wording of the health care “reform” bill on which they are planning to vote, if indeed there ever is actual wording given the recent track records of Democrat legislators in the age of Obama to vote into law “bills” that are not yet fully reduced to actual writing.

The Washington Examiner reports (link):
A proposal by Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., that would have required the Senate Finance Committee to post the final language of the $900 billion health care reform bill, as well as a Congressional Budget Office cost analysis, on the committee’s website for 72 hours prior to a vote was rejected 12-11. Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., [who is expected to face a tough reelection race next year] was the only Democrat to side with [the Republicans]…. [Democrat] Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., himself admitted that “This probably sounds a little crazy to some people that we are voting on something before we have seen legislative language.” Indeed.
The reason for all this secrecy is obvious to everyone – despite all of their speechifying about “transparency,” the Democrats do not want the public to know the details of what they are trying to enact into law. They want to just stick with general platitudes about better health care for all.

Just one of the undoubtedly many features of the bill Democrats are trying to hide relates to what the Washington Times (link) calls “Death Panels By Proxy”:
Yes, there are death panels. Its members won't even know whose deaths they are causing. But under the health care bill sponsored by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, Montana Democrat, death panels will indeed exist - oh so cleverly disguised as accountants.
The offending provision is on Pages 80-81 of the unamended Baucus bill, hidden amid a lot of similar legislative mumbo-jumbo about Medicare payments to doctors. The key sentence: "Beginning in 2015, payment would be reduced by five percent if an aggregation of the physician's resource use is at or above the 90th percentile of national utilization." Translated into plain English, it means that in any year in which a particular doctor's average per-patient Medicare costs are in the top 10 percent in the nation, the feds will cut the doctor's payments by 5 percent.

Forget results. This provision makes no account for the results of care, its quality or even its efficiency. It just says that if a doctor authorizes expensive care, no matter how successfully, the government will punish him by scrimping on what already is a low reimbursement rate for treating Medicare patients. The incentive, therefore, is for the doctor always to provide less care for his patients for fear of having his payments docked. And because no doctor will know who falls in the top 10 percent until year's end, or what total average costs will break the 10 percent threshold, the pressure will be intense to withhold care, and withhold care again, and then withhold it some more. Or at least to prescribe cheaper care, no matter how much less effective, in order to avoid the penalties. The National Right to Life Committee concludes that this provision will cause a "death spiral" by "ensur[ing] that doctors are forced to ration care for their senior citizen patients."
This sordid episode is disgraceful behavior by the Democrat majority to ram through in secrecy a disgraceful provision, and all true patriots should call them on this.

John M Greco

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Universality of Podhoretz’s Question: Why Are Jews Liberal?

Last week the Wall Street Journal featured a short essay by Norman Podhoretz titled “Why Are Jews Liberal,” (link) which presumably touches on key points from his new book (link) of the same name. He makes the observation that although most liberal Jews seem to assert that their liberalism stems directly from the teachings and cultural values of Judaism:

The upshot is that in virtually every instance of a clash between Jewish law and contemporary liberalism, it is the liberal creed that prevails for most American Jews. Which is to say that for them, liberalism has become more than a political outlook. It has for all practical purposes superseded Judaism and become a religion in its own right. And to the dogmas and commandments of this religion they give the kind of steadfast devotion their forefathers gave to the religion of the Hebrew Bible.

His is an analysis that applies just as well to Christians who believe that their religion dictates the tenets of modern liberalism (a big government social welfare state primarily concerned with monitoring and enforcing equality) rather than those of modern conservatism (the importance of individual liberty, personal responsibility, and self-reliance enabled and protected by a divided, limited government based on the impartial rule of law).Podhoretz distills the issue thusly:

The great issue between the two political communities is how they feel about the nature of American society. With all exceptions duly noted, I think it fair to say that what liberals mainly see when they look at this country is injustice and oppression of every kind—economic, social and political. By sharp contrast, conservatives see a nation shaped by a complex of traditions, principles and institutions that has afforded more freedom and, even factoring in periodic economic downturns, more prosperity to more of its citizens than in any society in human history. It follows that what liberals believe needs to be changed or discarded—and apologized for to other nations—is precisely what conservatives are dedicated to preserving, reinvigorating and proudly defending against attack.
A few days later the WSJ published some letters to the editor (link) that disagreed with Podhoretz’s view. Then, the WSJ published letters (link) that disagreed with the disagreers. Abraham Irwin, of Passaic, N.J., wrote:
All of the letters [disagreeing with Podhoretz] essentially state that Jews are liberal because the religion teaches concern for the poor and disadvantaged. I agree but strongly contend that the policies suggested and currently being enacted by the government will in the long run do just the opposite. Over the past 150 years classical liberalism and free-market capitalism revolutionized economies and did more to improve the conditions of the poor than any other competing system.

John M Greco

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Senator Olympia Snowe, Republican Principles, & Bearing False Witness

Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine said the other day in an interview (link) that although she hasn’t changed as a Republican, “I think more that my party has changed.” She strongly implied that the Republican party has strayed from “the traditional principles” of “limited government, individual opportunities, fiscal responsibility, and a strong national defense.”

Snowe has social “moderate” views such as pro-choice and pro gun control, and that’s her prerogative, and the Republican party is a big tent. Politically conservative/socially moderate people are a big part of the Republican party, and I read of nothing to suggest that Snowe is being hassled by other Republicans for her views. But Snowe, for example, voted for the massive and grossly irresponsible Democrat spending bill, the so-called “stimulus,” and against the Bush tax cuts, so how much of a believer in limited government and fiscal responsibility is she really? Answer – can't be that much.

God knows that the Republican party has seriously strayed from the principles Snowe names, although lately it seems to be getting back on track. And maybe this is some sort of come-on ploy to Democrats, who knows. But for Snowe to intimate that, as a limited government/fiscal responsibility type, she’s so disappointed with Republicans that she’s now going to work more closely with the Democrat party of Obama, Pelosi, and Reid, ultra-liberal and the very antithesis of the Republican principles she claims to embrace, well, as Obama would say, she’s bearing false witness.

John M Greco

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Amnesiac Pelosi Now Worried About Heated Language in Political Debate

Just yesterday I posted (link) on how some liberals are melting down in response to widespread and growing dissatisfaction with Democrats in general and Obama in particular. I quoted Peter Wehner, who wrote (link) that “Obama’s critics are now routinely labeled as unpatriotic, racists, liars, mobsters, evil mongers, practitioners of un-American tactics, and more. As Obama’s failures mount up, it will only get worse. The volume will only get louder. And the charges will only get more desperate and incendiary.”

Now comes Democrat Speaker of the US House Pelosi, who recently saw “Nazis” among the August town hall citizen participants, worried that heated language could lead to violence by conservatives, saying (link):
“I have concerns about some of the language that is being used”…, Pelosi said, choking up and with tears forming in her eyes. “This kind of rhetoric is just, is really frightening and it [in the past] created a climate in which … violence took place and … I wish that we would all, again, curb our enthusiasm in some of the statements that are made.”
This is Pelosi, leader of a party of verbal flamethrowers and an accomplished one herself, now worried about “language” that might provoke violence. What this really is of course is just part of the disgraceful Democrat effort to stifle debate and play the victim card.

Remember Howard Dean, who as national chairman of the Democrat party said “I hate Republicans and everything they stand for”? Or recent Obama Czar Van Jones, who not too long ago said in a public forum that Republicans are “assholes”? Remember the years of Bush is Hitler rhetoric? But those are just words -- Michelle Malkin in her book Unhinged documented the physical violence committed by some Democrats and liberals against their political opponents. Lately, we’ve seen an Obamacare supporter bite off a finger of a peaceful protestor. We’ve just seen a town hall attendee in St. Louis get beaten by union thugs.

Today, Victor Davis Hansen reminds (link) us all that the language being used now by opponents of Obama/Democrat policies and actions is tame compared to what Democrats have been dishing out for years against Republicans and conservatives:
In the Bush years, "hate" was a favorite word of liberal critics, from both officials (cf. Howard Dean) and mainstream publications (cf. The New Republic). "Assassination" was the rage among liberal culture (cf. Alfred Knopf, the Toronto film festival, the Guardian). "Liar," "Nazi," and "brownshirt" were casual slurs from high-profile Democrats (cf. Gore, John Glenn, Robert Byrd, Harry Reid, Pete Stark, etc.).
The words of Army attorney Joseph Welch (link) to Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Army-McCarthy hearings are just as fitting today to Ms. Pelosi: “At long last, have you left no sense of decency? And if there is a God in Heaven it will do neither you nor your cause any good.”

John M Greco

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Criticizing Obama is Racist in Liberalism’s Post-Racial America

We are witnessing an alarming and corrosive melt down by some Democrats, who, seeing serious and successful challenge to Obama’s ultra-liberal policies and inclinations, now resort to that last refuge of scoundrels – hurling charges of racism at those who dare oppose Obama (link). The liberal media joins in (link), in what Abigail Thernstrom calls “a sad and dangerous moment in American politics” (link).

From the disgraced and hapless former President Jimmy Carter, Democrat: “I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he's African-American.”

From US Representative Hank Johnson, Democrat from Georgia, who happens to be black: “We’ll probably have folks putting on white hoods and white uniforms again, and riding through the countryside intimidating people.”

So much for Obama’s promise to usher in a post-racial America. Obama and so many of his Democrats are all about race and racial grievance, real or feigned. This most recent “national conversation about race” began when Republican Representative Wilson shouted “you lie” to President Obama in his recent speech to a joint session of Congress when he (Obama) said that illegal aliens would not be covered under his health care reform. Ultra-liberal columnist Maureen Dowd of the NY Times apparently spoke for many Democrats when she wrote that when Wilson said “you lie” he really in his heart meant the racial slur “Boy, you lie.”

In the Bush years, to gloss over their gross incivility and at times near traitorous behavior, some Democrats would assert that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” Now, as the new quip goes, according to Democrats for Republicans “dissent is the highest form of racism.” (link)

Accusing those who oppose Obama’s policies of racism is despicable, and I can only hope will be a major losing strategy for those Democrats who embrace it, explicitly or tacitly. Charles Krauthammer on Fox News (link):
“The accusation of racism is a sign of desperation by people who know they are losing the national debate, and they want to hurl the ultimate charge in American politics…. it is a disgusting tactic. It's done as a way to end debate…. Accusations of racism are the last refuge of the liberal scoundrel.

Some conservatives (link) take a defensive stance, which is quite wrong as it almost seems to concede the premise. The only way to respond is to denounce those who charge racism every time they lose a policy debate.

Victor Davis Hanson writes (link) at National Review Online:

[I]n the Bush wilderness years, the Left assumed permanent political marginalization, adopted an ends-justify-the-means strategy of street rhetoric against Bush, then found themselves unexpectedly as the establishment, and now are appalled that anyone might emulate their own past emotional outbursts…. [T]he larger question is why the Left is now nearly unhinged about criticism of a black liberal president, when it was silent … about the racial implications of the constant and vicious anger directed at Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice…. For that matter, the ubiquitous [ultra-liberal Democrat US representative] Pete Stark once said some particularly unkind and racist things about former health and human services secretary Louis Sullivan (who is black).
Here’s Peter Wehner at Contentions (link):
[This is] evidence of how unhinged and desperate many liberals and some within the Democratic party are becoming. The hatred and fury that consumed them during the Bush years is returning with a vengeance. It turns out that the cause of their derangement during the Bush years may not have been Bush after all; he may simply have been the object of their crazed attacks. It’s fascinating to watch how furious liberals have become despite Obama’s being president and Democrats’ controlling the Senate and the House by wide margins. This period should be—they expected it to be—years of milk and honey for them. But events and reality have intervened. They see the Anointed One, Barack Obama—their “sort of God”—failing. He is not only a mere mortal but also a deeply flawed one.
They see support for Obama’s effort to nationalize our health-care system collapsing. They see the American people rising up against his brand of liberalism. They see Republicans with all the intensity on their side.
Many liberals simply cannot process this new data, this horrible turn of events. What we are seeing is the equivalent of a computer crash. As a result, they are returning to what has become for some liberals an emotional and psychological norm: anger and fury, overheated and reckless charges, bitterness and pettiness…. We’re only eight months into the Age of Obama—the period in which he promised to unite our divided country, heal our wounds, and bind up our divisions—and Obama’s critics are now routinely labeled as unpatriotic, racists, liars, mobsters, evil mongers, practitioners of un-American tactics, and more. As Obama’s failures mount up, it will only get worse. The volume will only get louder. And the charges will only get more desperate and incendiary.

Obama promised us all a post-racial America. Instead, this is what we’ve gotten.

John M Greco

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Bob Newhart Turns 80 Today -- To Be Or Not To Be, That Is the Gazorninplat

Bob Newhart, the wickedly funny, innovative, thinking man’s comedian, is 80 years old today. From Chicago, he attended St Ignatius High School, Loyola University of Chicago’s college, and, briefly, Loyola’s law school, Jesuit schools all, which might explain something. After a stint in the Army he worked for a while as an accountant, although, as he says in the introduction to his “Accountant’s Retirement Party” sketch, he “had a strange theory of accountancy…I had always felt that if you got within 2 or 3 bucks of it [laughter]… but this really never caught on [laughter], and as a consequence I held a number of accounting jobs.”

He soon worked out a novel comedy routine where he would act out one end of a supposedly two way phone conversation, playing what amounted to the straight man role to the unseen and unheard party on the phone. This bit propelled him to comedy stardom. He would later achieve even more success on TV, most notably in two long running series playing first a Chicago psychologist and then a rural New England innkeeper, and his occasional movie appearances are highlighted by his small but hysterical role as Major Major in the black comedy Catch-22. And he was one of the most frequent and funniest guests on Johnny Carson’s Tonight show.

But to me his comedy routines are his greatest work. He is brilliant with his dry humor and deadpan, hesitating, and sometimes slightly unsure delivery. He skyrocketed to success in 1960 with the first of his many albums, “The Button Down Mind of Bob Newhart,” which hit number one on the pop chart and received the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. In his sketches, he would typically set up a premise and lead into the sketch with “I think it would go something like this.”

In “An Infinite Number of Monkeys,” he imagines that although an infinite number of monkeys given enough time would type out “all the Great Books,” someone must check their work to see if they are “turning out good stuff;” in the sketch, after reading through much gibberish, one of the monitors exclaims: "Hey Harry, I think this one has got something – To be or not to be, that is the gazorninplat.”

Or “Introducing Tobacco to Civilization,” in which Walter Raleigh’s sponsor in England has him on the phone and is puzzled by Raleigh’s purchase of a large quantity of leaves now being shipped across the ocean: “Let me get this straight Walt – you bought 80 tons of leaves?.... you do what, you shred it up, roll it up in a piece of paper … and you set fire to it!”

My favorite is “Abe Lincoln vs Madison Avenue,” in which Newhart imagines what a modern public relations man would have done for a somewhat dim and slightly befuddled Abe Lincoln just before the Gettysburg address:
Abe, what’s the problem?.. you’re thinking of shaving it off? .. Abe, don’t you see, it's part of the image, with the shawl, the stovepipe hat, and the string tie .. you don’t have the shawl .. Abe, where’s the shawl? … you left it in Washington! … Well what are you wearing?... a sort of cardigan?! … Abe, don’t you see it doesn’t fit with the string tie and the beard? … Abe, you haven’t changed the speech have you? … Abe, what are you changing the speech for? … You what, you typed it?! .. Abe, how many times have we told you – on the backs of envelopes… I understand it’s harder to read that way but this way it looks like you wrote it on the train coming down there… Abe, could you do this, could you memorize it and then put it on the backs of envelopes -- we’re getting a lot of play in the press on that … how are the envelopes holding out? … You could stand another box… Anything else? … No, no, no, no, you were a rail splitter, then an attorney … well it doesn’t make sense that way… Abe, don’t you see, you wouldn’t give up your law practice to become a rail splitter….
Accounting’s loss is everyone’s gain.

(The above three sketches and many more are available on iTunes)
R. Balsamo

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Obama’s Speech to Schoolchildren Paves the Way

September 11, 2010 (American News Service) --
President Obama is following up on his successful series of speeches to schoolchildren, begun a year ago this month -- events that have resulted in an outpouring of support for cap and trade, card check, sanctions against Israel, and government-run health care, particularly among the 7 year old demographic. Today at a press conference he stated that he is acceding to popular demand by North American Continent children in supporting a drive for residents of all ages to make a pledge of support and allegiance to him personally, a movement started in 2009 by Hollywood celebrities (link). President Obama denied, however, that he was encouraging a cult of personality, saying that “it is above my pay grade to discourage people from pledging allegiance to me personally if that is what people want to do.” He did acknowledge that His government-funded Office of the President web site has a module that invites Americans to submit the names, addresses, and photographs of those who refuse to take the personal pledge of allegiance to “Our Leader Obama,” but He stated that this was simply so that His team can contact objectors personally to dispel the many “myths” being spread by nay-sayers. President Obama, who smiled broadly when one reporter addressed Him as “Dear Leader,” suggested that this whole matter was being blown out of proportion and distorted by His political opponents “who oppose fairness and equality for all and who are tools of insurance company special interests.” The press conference ended on a high note as eager, crisply attired, and well-organized members of the Obama Youth Service Brigade (link) firmly escorted reporters to a reception hall filled with uplifting Obama banners, stirring music, and organic refreshments.